With the formation of Sebadoh in 1986, Lou Barlow managed to escape the song writing power struggle between him and his former Dinosaur Jr bandmate J Mascis, and the result? An equally innovative project which saw Barlow writing the majority of the songs, penning seven studio albums in the process. Barlow continued to produce fuzzy lo-fi music on four track tape decks until he broadened his recording techniques in the mid 90s, the result? The cult classic Bakesale, which is now being reissued by Domino.
1994 was a breakthrough year for many lo-fi bands and the like, including Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Dinosaur Jr’s Without a Sound reaching more mainstream audiences, where before they only had underground acclaim. 1994 also saw the highly successful debuts for Portishead who had lo-fi credentials and Weezer who were influenced by the scene. Released in the same year, Bakesale could easily have been lost amongst some of these more well-known classics but it certainly deserves to be held in similar high regards. Sebadoh’s unsung masterpiece has now been rediscovered and remastered where once it may have been forgotten.
The album contains 15 tracks of angry and bittersweet songs which stay faithful to the old distorted sound but add more accomplished production techniques. The guitar riffs are more prominent than the original, where they were slightly lost in the tide of the songs, a shame for such well crafted intricacies. There is more clarity and distinction between every sound, however they have managed to retain the rawness that epitomizes their sound.
License to Confuse does a perfect job as an opener. It’s unforgivingly catchy without being too annoying and nagging and it’s explosive from the off. Fast paced vocals, meandering guitars and drum fills really set the tone for the rest of the album.
A notable feature of Sebadoh is their constant rotation of band duties. Just like the songwriting, they each have a go on different instruments like excited children with short attention spans. The first sign of change is on Not a Friend where the responsibility of drumming is handed over to Eric Gaffney in a melodic song with a wonderfully lazy rhythm.
An early highlight is Not Too Amused, the longest track on the album and a huge statement of intent. It builds and builds, gathering momentum and generating new levels of anger with every lyric, culminating in an almost shouting delivery from Jason Loewenstein. The pauses in vocals make way for quirky guitar fills and the constant fuzz only adds to the animosity towards the subject matter.
The simplicity of the chord sequences on tracks such as Got It act as innocent backdrops to the menacing vocals, but songs like these can often fade out to soon, with the majority of songs clocking in at less than three minutes. Shit Soup is allowed to run a little longer however and marks the peak of the records anger with heavy bursts of overdrive that propel the song into an orbit of frustration and desperate lyrical imagery. Sentiments such as ‘you’re shit soup/and I’m in the reflection booth/two glass eyes behind cheap sunglasses’ shows an admirable eye for detail.
Towards the end of the record Mystery Man has gleaming guitar moments and Temptation Tide sweeps over as quickly as the title suggests. Closing the record is the dramatically stop start Together or Alone that draws the album to a forlorn climax. Amidst all the powerchords and chaotic lead guitar are masses of raw emotion that help to make this a fascinating listen. Now this remastered version is back with more force than ever for a second turbulent onslaught on your unsuspecting ears.